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A native daughter returns home to America - final column

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I’ve been in my native home of the Bronx, New York for almost a week now. I’m not working. I have no obligations besides the social ones.

Yet, this column seems to be the one I’ve had the most difficulty writing.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve known what I’ve had to write about since the day before my flight departed from Dublin, and I've been avoiding the truth that this is my last column.

Two nights before I left Ireland, I said a prayer for a sign. If I could just have an advance warning about whether I would be returning to Ireland after the holidays, or staying put in my native home, I would be satisfied, I thought.

Literally, the next morning, I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. It was a recruiter who had submitted my CV for a job I had hoped to start in January in Dublin. After nearly dropping the phone in my excitement, I received a rather abrupt confirmation of my fate: “The position has been filled. Have a happy Christmas.”

There it was, my sign, in the form of a handful of words. That was to be my last full day as an Irish resident.

Truman Capote once said that more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.

I was too upset to even organize, or carry out, a proper farewell party. So a few friends gathered at the last minute to offer hasty goodbyes, during a fun, but altogether depressing night out.

The next morning, on my way to the airport, I watched the wet stone walls and rows of pretty brick houses pass by me through a taxi window, and I selfishly cursed the Irish economy for not being strong enough to sustain me.

At the airport, a painfully nosy airport employee saw my baggage and forced me to check in what should’ve been my overhead baggage. I started complaining about the downright obnoxious 55 Euro fee, and then suddenly, I burst into tears.

I don’t know what came over me; deep down, I guess, I felt defeated. Like an overtired child crying over spilled milk, I just stood there at the gate sobbing over my frustrations.

Coincidentally, the founder/editor of IrishCentral.com was on the same flight to New York. After we landed, we had a nice chat, and we then agreed that since I would no longer be “Living My Irish Dream,” this would be my final column.

The hours between sitting on my bed in Dublin after that phone call, processing that information to the sound of unruly kids shouting outside my window, and standing in JFK airport with a half a dozen or so languages colliding around me, felt like they occurred at warp-speed. It was like I clicked my heels twice and arrived on American soil.

But Dorothy was right: there really is no place like home.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve spent every waking moment appreciating everyone and everything around me. I’ve been marveling all week at luxuries I've had all along, but never truly took the time to treasure.

Like playing music with my older sister (I used to avoid rehearsing like the plague), or shopping with my best friend (I am still a terrible shopper, but after spending more than a year communicating almost exclusively through a computer screen, I’m delighted to engage in an activity that allows moving more than a few centimeters left or right).

I even spent time ogling all of the perfumes, shampoos and lovely little toiletries I had barely noticed before in our family bathroom.

I gained a newfound appreciation for the way my mother has decorated our walls with visuals commemorating each of her children's identities.

For as long as we’ve lived here, there have been photos, paintings and newspaper clippings by or about each of us posted all over our house. And yet, it was only as I looked around the house after being away for so long that I realized that she must've put an enormous amount of effort into doing this, and keeping it up for all these years. I doubt any of us has ever really thanked her for taking the time to put our life’s work on display.

I also never realized just how beautiful our home, and the rooms my father built for us here in the Bronx really are, in both appearance and in sentiment, until this week.

It’s funny how you don’t appreciate people until you lose them, or places until you’ve left them.

There are many things I will miss about Ireland, but most of all, I'll miss the friends I’ve had the pleasure of calling my own. But I don’t think miles can do much damage to true friendships. Sometimes you meet people, and just you know that you’ll be friends for a long time.

One of my uncles who saw me for the first time in a long time this weekend told me, “You look good, like you’re… happier than I’ve ever seen you.”

To be honest, I think he may be right.

There are few things in life that make me happier, or which come more naturally to me, than putting my pen to a page. Ireland, and more specifically, IrishCentral.com, has given me the gift of the opportunity to write, and it has been one of the most fulfilling enterprises of my life.

So I am eternally grateful for the months I’ve had this column. And along with all of the friends and places I have left behind, I will miss it.

I would like to thank each and every person who gave their precious time to reading any of my words, and especially, those who commented on these columns. I want to extend my most sincere and humble gratitude, and I encourage you to continue to respond to stories you find yourself affected by in the future.

I'll leave you with wishes for the happiest of holidays and new year celebrations.

As we prepare to begin a new year amid dismal global economic circumstances, to quote an old Irish song, may we never forget “that riches aren’t needed for wealth.”

Photo by Miriam Innes

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